Personal Firewall Solutions

There are four classes of personal firewall solutions. Basic software, advanced software and hardware router (or NAT router) and hardware router with advanced hardware firewall.

Windows XP comes with a basic personal firewall. All you need to do is enable it and you will have some minimal protection on your computer. Any hackers attacking your computer will be met with basic resistance but spyware applications or worms that already exist on your computer will still be able to operate. The Windows XP Firewall is a very easy and inexpensive (free for xp users) solution.

Advanced firewall software is also available from companies like ZoneLabs, Norton and others. These firewalls not only protect you from incoming attacks, they protect your privacy by not letting spyware and many worms access the internet. They are easy to install but can sometimes be a challenge for novice users to understand. While operating your computer the firewall will ask you if certain programs can connect to the internet. Answering Yes to the wrong programs defeats the purpose of having the firewall in place.

A hardware router also acts as a basic personal firewall because of a technology called NAT, or network address translation. By letting multiple computers on your home network access the internet through a single connection, incoming packets are unable to directly contact your computers. You can contact the internet, but the internet can not contact you. This does not protect your outgoing connections meaning spyware can still reach out from your computer to the internet. Once installed, the router firewall is the easiest solution to maintain because it is almost completely transparent to your everyday work.  Your computers are always fairly well protected while behind a firewall.

Hardware routers with advanced firewalls are very similar to the basic hardware routers but come with far more protection options. All of these options would be confusing for a novice user and are in my option not worth bothering with. A basic NAT router should be just fine for most people.

Mac OSX and Linux both come with a personal firewall built in. It can be enabled on Mac OSX using this page
After you install your firewall, dont forget to run a firewall test or at least a port scan.


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